I am a card-carrying, lifetime blueberry lover. So you can imagine how thrilled I am that it is fresh-berry-picking season in Arkansas. U-pick opportunities are in full swing all across the state. If you’re searching for the perfect summer getaway, why not pick your own blueberries at an Arkansas U-Pick Farm? A match made in vacation heaven — travelling and eating.
Agritourism such as this is a great way to learn about your local eats and the benefits go beyond just fresh foods. You can help support your local economy by visiting local farms run by local people. You’ll receive a unique experience and give farmers the opportunity to earn supplemental income through the sales of jam and jellies and by hosting tours and workshops.
Agritourism is not new. It is well established in many parts of Europe, especially in Italy, France, Ireland as well as in the UK, New England, and Northern California. It’s a vacation option that’s right at home in Arkansas where agriculture runs deep.
Today’s visitors to the Natural State are increasingly interested in learning more about the region they are visiting – its local traditions, its regional cuisine, and its rural culture and agriculture. Arkansas agritourism offers visitors opportunities to look behind the scenes, to experience Arkansas’s small farms and rural communities providing a wide-spectrum of memorable experiences. Activities are wide ranging and include festivals, farmers markets, U-pick farms, farm tours, winery tours, hayrides, pumpkin patches. Visitors are invited to observe the growing crop, to view the processing of the harvest and to taste and to purchase the final product. The whole visit usually takes just one or two hours, but some farms have facilities for visitors to linger, perhaps to have a picnic and simply enjoy the rural ambiance. I see agritourism as a way to build a bridge between rural and urban Arkansas, plus it’s a lot of fun!
Similar to a farm visit, a pick-your-own operation additionally allows visitors to pick their own fruit or vegetables. For example, after your blueberry harvest and once you get home, toss the sweet berries in salads; make a bubbling blueberry cobbler or hand dip them in chocolate as treats.
I urge everyone to discover and explore all the flavors and experiences that Arkansas agriculture makes available. Our Arkansas producers look forward to extending our famous southern hospitality! Go out and experience life on a family farm, taste wine from locally-grown grapes, marvel at acres of fresh Arkansas soybeans, enjoy the bounty of Arkansas’s fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables and see the innovations of today’s modern agriculture.
Show your children live cows, ducks or pigs. Let them pick a blueberry right off the bush in the summer or pumpkins off the vine in the fall. Teach them where their food really comes from – before it is picked, processed and distributed to the grocery stores. Celebrate fall with a wagon ride or a walk through a corn maze, or discover the treasure troves of handcrafted gifts in many of the farm gift shops. There are also eco-tourism ventures and trail rides a-plenty in Arkansas too. Start a family tradition and return to the farm in the winter and chop down your own Christmas tree.
Throughout the year you’ll find fresh, locally-grown produce, meats and a range of other Arkansas food products from honey to elk meat to goat cheese at the state’s farmers’ markets. Arkansas agriculture truly has much to offer! Pick your passion, there’s a lot to choose from in Arkansas agritourism!